As these generation Xers become a driving force in the economy and lead many technology-based companies, there are numerous benefits to having a member of the next generation on your board of directors.
1. Companies need young ideas and insight to stay relevant. According to the latest SpencerStewart Board Index, the average age of board members in the S&P 500 is 63, unchanged since 2014, but two years older than a decade ago. The fact that boards are staying or getting greyer doesn’t bode well in a market that will soon be dominated by younger generations. Globally, it’s even more important as people under 30 constitute 66% of the population of the Middle East and Africa and roughly half of the population in Latin America and Asia.
Deborah DeHaas, vice chairman at the Center for Corporate Governance at Deloitte, told the Wall Street Journal recently that the voice and perspective of younger generations is often missing in corporate boardrooms. DeHaas says there is an opportunity for directors to gain perspective on new technologies, consumer preferences, business strategies and models. “A younger perspective at the board level can help organizations reach and connect to this marketplace, and understand the world from their [view],” says DeHaas.
2. Millennials are masters of technology. People often assume business experience can only be gained with age, but it’s not necessarily the case with technology. As “digital natives,” millennials in their thirties can have a more natural grasp of technology and technological possibilities than someone who has been in the workforce for 40 years. Younger board members can offer more insight on how technology is used between businesses and customers.
Macy’s made some changes to its board in 2015 to bring more tech-savvy ideas and minds into the boardroom. Craig Weatherup, a member of Macy’s board and the former CEO of PepsiCo, told Forbes that age shouldn’t be a limiting criteria in board member selection and that boards that aren’t looking for digitally savvy members are going to fall behind. “I use my iPad and my iPhone, but I am hardly a digital board member,” said Weatherup.
3. They bring unique ideas and different perspectives on business. Millennials are founding and leading multibillion companies today with unique business ideas that leverage technology to transcend traditional boundaries. Uber founder Travis Kalanick is 39, Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky is 34, GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman is 40. Many more billion-dollar companies have been founded on the unique and non-traditional ideas of millennials.
They think differently and their ability to challenge traditional business ideas can often bring value and opportunity to an organization. Anna Pikovsky Auerbach, COO of Moonridge Group, told the Stanford Social Innovation Review that millennial insight is also important in an age of increasing corporate stewardship and responsibility. “They also bring different views on the role of business and society, particularly the blurring of lines between the sectors…millennials are well-poised to come up with creative and innovative solutions,” Auerbach says.